Author Topic: 5 acre lot - live the country dream?  (Read 21212 times)

teamzissou00

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5 acre lot - live the country dream?
« on: May 29, 2013, 10:19:20 PM »
We have been searching for a 1500 sq ft ranch home in the burbs.  Our goal was $215k-$235k. 

What we are finding is tiny lots (.15 acre).  Then, we stumbled on a 1600 sq ft house on a gorgeous 5 acre lot in the country about a 15 minute longer commute.  It's $300k.  In the short term we are way over budget, but with some aggressive paying we could get it down to a manageable amount in a few years. 

Anyone ever do a big property?  What are the pros and cons? 

capital

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Re: 5 acre lot - live the country dream?
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2013, 10:28:25 PM »
Is the country actually your dream? Is the house near anything else needed in day-to-day life, such as groceries, schools, other employment opportunities, and so on, or will you need to travel great distances to reach those as well? Would living that far out make it difficult or impossible to use a bike for daily tasks? To me, owning 5 acres sounds like an enormous pain to maintain, not to mention the (likely) isolated location, and the ideal home would be a townhouse with no lot, and a good park in the neighborhood.

nktokyo

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Re: 5 acre lot - live the country dream?
« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2013, 01:00:52 AM »
By living there isn't everything in your life going to cost more and take longer?

Taxes, food, utilities, maintenance, gas, insurance...


Whoshighpitch

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Re: 5 acre lot - live the country dream?
« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2013, 04:21:25 AM »
Living the cheapest way possible isn't necessarily the best way. I mean you could live in a tent for free but that would suck.  We live in the sticks on 5 acres and wouldn't change it.  It does take more driving, more gas, etc but for us it's worth it to have a big yard, garden, wildlife, privacy....  Of course property values out here (pennsylvania) are half what they are in New Jersey where most people work, so we are still better off financially I think.  I'd have a hard time in a townhouse with neighbors on the other side of my bedroom wall. 

Rural

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Re: 5 acre lot - live the country dream?
« Reply #4 on: May 30, 2013, 05:38:02 AM »
It sounds like you want some land, and I don't think you should give up on that, because a .15 acre lot won't get any bigger. But I wouldn't go that far over budget. Keep looking. We watched and rented for a couple of years to get our land, but waiting let us buy at a great price.

I don't follow the concerns about maintenance, by the way. You don't turn five acres, or even three, into a "yard." That's foolishness, and it will suck your time and money while defeating the whole purpose of buying land. You have to think about a decent-sized property differently than you do a small city or suburban lot. If you have a lawn, it's the size of one of the small lot lawns. Some of the area should be woods, pond, field, whatever is appropriate to the climate where you live.


NumberCruncher

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Re: 5 acre lot - live the country dream?
« Reply #5 on: May 30, 2013, 06:39:23 AM »
I grew up on 2 acres, and mowing the lawn was a weekly 3 hour affair with two people (tractor/attachment, riding lawn mower, and push mower for the trim). For me -> not something I'd ever want to maintain again. It's also something you can't as easily take care of when you're old and gray.

If you understand the maintenance required for the lot/house, extra expenses/time commitment for the commute, etc - just make sure you make a somewhat logical evaluation of your options. And sleep on it. :)

Storypage

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Re: 5 acre lot - live the country dream?
« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2013, 09:38:15 AM »

On acreage, you can homestead, which now days mean supply much of your own food. On 5 acres, you can raise your own meat (chickens, turkeys, rabbits, goats, etc.), eggs, grow fruits and vegies, do canning, have goats for dairy products and get lots of excellent exercise. You are more likely to be self sufficient in the country than in town, and while self sufficiency doesn't always equal less expensive, it can be. It is most certainly more environmentally friendly. Can't get much more local than your own back yard.

We lived this live on our 8 acre farm for the past 5 years. It is an excellent lifestyle choice.

I highly recommend books by Joel Salatin, Jon Jeavons, and John Seymour for the basics on such a life.

http://www.growbiointensive.org/index.html?gclid=CJuFzPmTvrcCFVMV7AodwRAAgg

http://www.polyfacefarms.com/

http://www.homestead.org/


Storypage

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Re: 5 acre lot - live the country dream?
« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2013, 09:41:12 AM »

I should also mention, 5 acres is enough space to raise surplus to sell at your local farmers market. We raised and sold some 200 meat birds and 49 turkeys last year, enough to pay for all of our birds and feed for the year (thus free food) plus a nice profit. And you can grow a lot of vegetables on 5 acres if you do it right.


Spork

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Re: 5 acre lot - live the country dream?
« Reply #8 on: May 30, 2013, 09:41:38 AM »
I've got 7.5 acres.  It's mostly woods.  I absolutely fell in love with it the day we first saw it.  As Rural said: we don't try to make it a perfect city lot.  We have some amount of "grass" (and I use that term loosely) around the house.  It really is there to displace sticker burrs, impede water run off and provide the dogs a place to run.  It's easily less than an acre.... probably more like 1/2.  And I am not overly anal about mowing it precisely or edging it perfectly.  For crissakes, I'm in the woods.  My neighbors can't even see my lawn without walking up a 250 ft driveway.

Pros:
* nature.  Trees, birds, plants, deer, etc.  A walk in the woods is worth something.
* less noise
* stars.  Yes, they still exist.  (Though even since 2006 there has been significant light pollution eating away at them for me.)
* In the summer, I can't see my neighbors (left, right, across the street).  Yeah, they're still there, but I can pretend I'm out in the middle of the woods. 
* possibly property tax advantages if you can get it categorized as agricultural
* more freedom.  You can generally do what you want: shoot a gun, build a house without a permit, have a horse, etc.

Cons:
* a little more maintenance.  I actually bought a tractor -- though it's arguable that I REALLY needed one.  It's handy to have though.
* possibly have to drill a well.  (We still have municipal water.)
* probably require a septic tank, maybe even an aerobic tank.  (We have very sandy soil and can get away with conventional septic.)
* longer commute, longer trips to grocery store, etc.  (We tend to try to batch it all.)
* rural roads/highways may not be bike friendly
* city services like police/fire/ambulance may be less than what you'd expect in town
* may not be able to get natural gas.  (Propane is expensive.)
* may have limited internet access.  (I have no way to get DSL, cable, FIOS, etc.)

netskyblue

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Re: 5 acre lot - live the country dream?
« Reply #9 on: May 30, 2013, 10:03:53 AM »
I grew up on 4 acres.  Well, the yard was 4 acres - we had 40 connected acres if you counted the field & timber.  It's not that big.  I'm having a hard time stomaching that I might have to settle for A LOT less when I go to buy a house.


mlipps

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Re: 5 acre lot - live the country dream?
« Reply #10 on: May 30, 2013, 11:09:39 AM »
I grew up on 2 acres, and mowing the lawn was a weekly 3 hour affair with two people (tractor/attachment, riding lawn mower, and push mower for the trim). For me -> not something I'd ever want to maintain again. It's also something you can't as easily take care of when you're old and gray.

If you understand the maintenance required for the lot/house, extra expenses/time commitment for the commute, etc - just make sure you make a somewhat logical evaluation of your options. And sleep on it. :)

There's nothing that says you have to mow the whole lot though, unless it has an HOA (unlikely).

ncornilsen

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Re: 5 acre lot - live the country dream?
« Reply #11 on: May 30, 2013, 11:27:25 AM »
Mowing the lawn on a piece of property that size is easy - a couple of meat or milk producing critters will handle that nicely.  A heard of 140 cow/calf pairs keep all 1250 acres my parent's have down pretty well. 

Or, if  the area is agricultural, you can do what our city-escapee nieghbors did... we rented nearby 5 or ten acre parcels near my parent's ranch and cut hay off of them each year. we didn't pay much more than a few hundred bucks to do it, but those people didn't want to do anything with the land anyway.




teamzissou00

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Re: 5 acre lot - live the country dream?
« Reply #12 on: May 30, 2013, 05:59:10 PM »
Great stuff!  The maintenance is kind of scary- we will most likely be swayed by that- I struggle to mow my tiny lawn as it is.  Generally just because you think being immersed will change how you feel, actions speak pretty loud. 

The other idea we are debating is whether to buy a turnkey for $250k or one that needs renovation for $200k with the $50k to be spent down the road a bit at a time.  We aren't handy.  Thoughts?  I figure its better to have the turnkey right away and aggressively pay down the 50k

Rural

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Re: 5 acre lot - live the country dream?
« Reply #13 on: May 30, 2013, 06:40:19 PM »
If you're considering a turnkey, you probably need to consider carefully Sporks pro/con list, since it may be that the country thing is just outside your experience. Only you can decide whether it will be your "thing" or not.

Can you rent a house in the country for a while? It's worth looking into.


Pros:
* nature.  Trees, birds, plants, deer, etc.  A walk in the woods is worth something.
Oh, yeah.
* less noise
* stars.  Yes, they still exist.  (Though even since 2006 there has been significant light pollution eating away at them for me.)
* In the summer, I can't see my neighbors (left, right, across the street).  Yeah, they're still there, but I can pretend I'm out in the middle of the woods. 
We never see neighbors, and that's a real perk. We can't hear human neighbors, either, though we hear their hounds sometimes, and, today, a chainsaw.
* possibly property tax advantages if you can get it categorized as agricultural
Or look into a conservation easement if your state allows them. That's our next step here.
* more freedom.  You can generally do what you want: shoot a gun, build a house without a permit, have a horse, etc.
Yes on the gun and the animals (our nearest neighbor traps coyotes and usually has one or more caged). The building permit varies by area; we needed one, though the inspector didn't look very hard once he figured out we were building for ourselves and knew what we were doing.

Cons:
* a little more maintenance.  I actually bought a tractor -- though it's arguable that I REALLY needed one.  It's handy to have though.
We REALLY need one because of driveway maintenance. Consider access as you're looking. We'll pave eventually (maybe soon) but it may cost us >$10K.
* possibly have to drill a well.  (We still have municipal water.)
We have county water, too, but this is one of the things you absolutely have to find out before you buy. Shouldn't be an issue if the house is already there, though.
* probably require a septic tank, maybe even an aerobic tank.  (We have very sandy soil and can get away with conventional septic.)
This could be an issue even if the house is already there. Septic tanks can require some maintenance (will, eventually), and the rare disasters are incredibly unpleasant and usually expensive. Find out if a house has septic before you buy, and research it if you're not familiar with it. If you plan to build, you'll need a soil test, which you can usually find out about from the health department.
* longer commute, longer trips to grocery store, etc.  (We tend to try to batch it all.)
Yep.
* rural roads/highways may not be bike friendly
In my experience, there is no "may" about this. :)
* city services like police/fire/ambulance may be less than what you'd expect in town
Something else to find out about before buying. It can vary wildly, but here we would be waiting on a county sheriff's deputy and a volunteer fire department/the state forestry service (no kidding, they were here once when a different neighbor was an idiot with a trash fire, but we had the fire contained by the time they got here). I don't think any ambulance could reach the house, but we definitely wouldn't wait for one to try. Keep in mind YMMV extremely; it sounds like the OP's near-suburban area of interest may be very different.
* may not be able to get natural gas.  (Propane is expensive.)
We can't, have avoided propane, too.
* may have limited internet access.  (I have no way to get DSL, cable, FIOS, etc.)
We're more fortunate here, though we did have to downgrade to DSL because the cable company wouldn't run to the new house.

Will

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Re: 5 acre lot - live the country dream?
« Reply #14 on: May 30, 2013, 08:24:42 PM »
Oh, where is it?  Yacolt? Amboy? Camas? Ridgefield? Battle Ground?

teamzissou00

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Re: 5 acre lot - live the country dream?
« Reply #15 on: May 30, 2013, 09:02:46 PM »
Washougal

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Re: 5 acre lot - live the country dream?
« Reply #16 on: May 31, 2013, 08:19:09 AM »
Cons:
* a little more maintenance.  I actually bought a tractor -- though it's arguable that I REALLY needed one.  It's handy to have though.
We REALLY need one because of driveway maintenance. Consider access as you're looking. We'll pave eventually (maybe soon) but it may cost us >$10K.

Ah yes.  Add that to the cons column.  Those long driveways are hugely expensive.  We were lucky enough to have the previous owner pave ours, but we made minor repairs/additions and it was $4k for not-very-much asphalt.  (We added a parking pad for 2 cars, patched some holes and repaved about a 25-30ft section that was failing.)

I patch holes in ours at least once a year using Home Depot style asphalt patch. 

kikichewie

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Re: 5 acre lot - live the country dream?
« Reply #17 on: May 31, 2013, 08:46:50 AM »
If you're not handy, that's really all you need to know as far as I'm concerned.

nktokyo

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Re: 5 acre lot - live the country dream?
« Reply #18 on: May 31, 2013, 11:51:56 PM »
Maybe stash some cash until the next crash (sorry) and look to buy then

Rural

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Re: 5 acre lot - live the country dream?
« Reply #19 on: June 01, 2013, 03:59:32 AM »
Cons:
* a little more maintenance.  I actually bought a tractor -- though it's arguable that I REALLY needed one.  It's handy to have though.
We REALLY need one because of driveway maintenance. Consider access as you're looking. We'll pave eventually (maybe soon) but it may cost us >$10K.

Ah yes.  Add that to the cons column.  Those long driveways are hugely expensive.  We were lucky enough to have the previous owner pave ours, but we made minor repairs/additions and it was $4k for not-very-much asphalt.  (We added a parking pad for 2 cars, patched some holes and repaved about a 25-30ft section that was failing.)

I patch holes in ours at least once a year using Home Depot style asphalt patch.

I'm afraid asphalt is beyond our reach here; we're looking hard at tar gravel (tar and chip). Have to get someone out to see if they can get the equipment into position to do anything at all, first.

MrsPete

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Re: 5 acre lot - live the country dream?
« Reply #20 on: June 01, 2013, 08:30:59 PM »
I grew up on a small farm, and it is a totally different lifestyle.  I don't know whether to tell you to jump into it or to run away -- that depends upon your mindset.  Things I can tell you:

Pro:
- More privacy
- No Home Owners Association to tell you that you must do /not do this or that thing on your own land:  You can have your driveway, your garage, your pool, whatever . . . exactly where you want it, exactly how you want it.  You can have a bonfire on New Year's Eve, or let your son's Cub Scout troop tent in the backyard -- you'll have plenty of space for it. 
- It's satisfying to have space and be the king of all you survey.
- I agree about the stars. 
- You can allow your children to play outside without concern for who's driving through the neighborhood. 
- Less pressure to "keep up with the Joneses". 

Con:
- Do not underestimate the maintenance.  Yeah, it's absolutely true that you don't maintain grass and flower beds to the same degree that you would if you lived on a 1/4 acre lot in a suburb, but when you have even a couple acres, there's ALWAYS something that needs doing.  In addition to mowing, you will constantly have a tree that's down and needs cutting, a bag of trash that someone's tossed onto your land, an outbuilding that needs repair, a nest of skunks that's taken up residence in your pumphouse, teenagers'll choose your back corner for a drinking /fire-burning spot, etc., etc., etc.  Emphasis on ALWAYS.  It's easy to say, "No problem!  I'm going to maintain the acre around my house, and I'll let the other four acres remain wild."  You may do that to some extent, but those other acres will ALWAYS have some sort of need.  For one thing, if you don't maintain it somewhat, unwanted critters will take up residence in your space.  Often it's something that you'd never expect; for example, not long ago some hunters came onto our land, shot five deer, cut off their heads for trophies and left the bodies laying in the field.  Yeah, we reported it to the sheriff, but we had to deal with disposal -- and the county doesn't take 'em away for free. 
- You need more of everything.  You move onto a city lot, and you plan one oak tree and a couple four-packs of pansies . . . and you have some attractive color around your front door.  Do the same for a house on five acres, and it looks like nothing. 
- You clean more.  There's a good chance you'll have a gravel driveway and that less of your outdoor space will be accessed via nice little concrete walkways.  This means you'll drag in more dirt, and your children will drag in much, much more dirt. 
- Taxes will be higher.  I get a big tax break because we actively farm our land, and other people get similar breaks for having a "forestry plan" and specific types of trees.  However, you need a good bit more than 5 acres to get that kind of break, and it can take years to qualify yourself. 
- Fewer repair people, etc. work in rural areas.  As a result, you often pay a premium price for service.  You may or may not have trash service.  If a storm comes through and knocks out a bunch of electrical lines, they'll fix the ones in the city (near the most people) much faster than the ones out in remote areas. 
- You spend more time in the car.  Yeah, 15 extra minutes doesn't seem like much, but it does add up.  You can counteract it by blocking off an afternoon and doing all your errands at one time, but you'll still spend more time driving here and there than you expect. 
- Lost dogs and cats will find you . . . and move in, whether you want them or not.  You will have multiple cats in your outbuildings, etc. 
- It's easy to say, "Oh, once I have land I'll grow my own vegetables, keep a cow, etc., etc., etc."  But these things come with a rather significant learning curve, and they can cost you just as much as buying the items.  I'd suggest that if you buy this property, you do not launch into big homesteading plans until you've lived in the place a while and have acclimated yourself to the maintenance of the property itself.  Don't try to do everything your first year.
- If you have well water or a septic tank, those things come with concerns that don't accompany city services.  For example, when I was a kid, on really cold nights we had to put a kerosene lantern in the pump house to keep it from freezing.
- No sidewalks, which may matter to both you and your kids. 

And other things are harder to qualify:

No neighbors.  When I was a kid, I was terribly jealous of kids who could walk a couple doors down to visit friends.  We were far enough away from everyone else that I had to have my mom drive me to/from a friend's house.  Later, I wasn't allowed to play school sports or take part in after-school clubs because it required a ride from school, and the bus was my only way home.  So, if you're the type who wants to be able to chat with neighbors, or who wants kids to have neighborhood friends, you may find yourself lonely in the country.  On the other hand, you may revel in the privacy.  This is a question only you can answer. 


I'm kind of going through the same question right now.  We own some land in the country and were planning to build our retirement house on it.  Lately, however, we've been wondering if that's the best choice for us.  It really is much, much more work than a city lot, and we have to make a decision.


Spork

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Re: 5 acre lot - live the country dream?
« Reply #21 on: June 01, 2013, 09:34:47 PM »
However, you need a good bit more than 5 acres to get that kind of break, and it can take years to qualify yourself. 

We found this varies.... wildly.  We originally had the county tell us we didn't have enough land to qualify, but everyone around us qualified and the previous owner of our land qualified.  Wifey had a sitdown with the chief of the appraisal district and he basically said "well, that's a guideline.  It's not a law."   We got our tax exemption a week later.

petey

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Re: 5 acre lot - live the country dream?
« Reply #22 on: June 27, 2013, 04:46:18 PM »
I'm also very keen on a reasonable amount of land to live on with my wife and family.

My true goal is to have approximately 10 acres with at least two dwellings on - one for myself, my wife and child and one for my mother to live in. This would allow us to live nearby, but not on top of each other, and means we can share the bills. Ideally it would have or would allow us to build a third dwelling that we could rent as a pension/bed and breakfast for some additional income. Depending on the property we may plant a woodlot and most likely an orchard to grow fruit in, along with some reasonable sized plots for berries and vegetables.

Where we are from the additional cost of getting all of this within an hour from the city is only approximately 20% more than buying a new house in a suburb that is 30 minutes from the city. Granted that time adds up if you are commuting to the city each day, but we have no intention of doing that long term!

DK

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Re: 5 acre lot - live the country dream?
« Reply #23 on: June 27, 2013, 08:00:59 PM »
If you're considering a turnkey, you probably need to consider carefully Sporks pro/con list, since it may be that the country thing is just outside your experience. Only you can decide whether it will be your "thing" or not.

Can you rent a house in the country for a while? It's worth looking into.


Cons:
* may not be able to get natural gas.  (Propane is expensive.)
We can't, have avoided propane, too.

Avoided propane? Do tell, outside of the mortgage payment, that's the next highest expense.

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Re: 5 acre lot - live the country dream?
« Reply #24 on: June 27, 2013, 08:07:29 PM »
I'm finding semi-coastal (within 1,2 or say up to 10-15 miles) of the pacific in central CA or in Oregon near Portland in the ~10-20k range per acre assuming no permanent structures of any real merit present. A bit more of course if there is some kind of house on it.

EG 10 acres for 100k 1.5 miles from a sweet surf location on the Oregon coast, saw something in that range north of santa barbara/south of santa maria in CA, and again say near Cambria/San Simeon

looked looong and hard at a 40 acre place near san luis obispo that is asking around 200k :o, but like 15 miles from the ocean :)

note: these are middle-of-nowhere places mostly nowhere near job-centers, or 2+ hour commutes to those cities, this is more of a post-FI thing imo
« Last Edit: June 27, 2013, 08:12:03 PM by Joet »

Spork

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Re: 5 acre lot - live the country dream?
« Reply #25 on: June 28, 2013, 07:37:19 AM »
If you're considering a turnkey, you probably need to consider carefully Sporks pro/con list, since it may be that the country thing is just outside your experience. Only you can decide whether it will be your "thing" or not.

Can you rent a house in the country for a while? It's worth looking into.


Cons:
* may not be able to get natural gas.  (Propane is expensive.)
We can't, have avoided propane, too.

Avoided propane? Do tell, outside of the mortgage payment, that's the next highest expense.

I'm guessing that means "electric".

As for "the next highest expense" ... that depends on where you live.  I think I spend roughly $600/year on propane.  For me, it's the electric (A/C) that is the killer.